Louisiana confirms first ‘presumptive’ case of coronavirus

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Josh Axelrod, Senior Staff Reporter

For weeks, students have been waiting for what Governor John Bel Edwards called the inevitable: Louisiana’s first case of coronavirus. Monday, Edwards confirmed that the state’s first “presumptive” case of coronavirus has been detected.

The patient is a Jefferson Parish resident and is currently hospitalized about 3.5 miles from Tulane’s campus at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in downtown New Orleans, according to nola.com.

The Tulane administration sent an email to the student body Monday afternoon saying that “the university is committed to ensuring that all students can complete their spring semester coursework on time and with minimal disruption. We are still operating normally.”

Whether the university will cancel in-person classes remains unknown, but Tulane is likely to follow the lead of other schools across the country if the virus spreads further — a number of universities have canceled classes and some are urging students not to travel for spring break.

Tulane has asked faculty to be ready to transition to online learning if in-person classes are canceled. Some faculty have held class sessions to prepare students to use online learning platforms like Canvas and Zoom.

Right now, the university’s most drastic measures involve travel.

Tulane will not send students, staff or faculty on any university travel until the end of the spring semester, unless it is deemed critical. As per CDC guidance, Tulane’s email guidance instructs any traveler returning to the U.S. from a CDC Level 3 Travel Advisory country must self-isolate and stay off of Tulane’s campus for 14 days. Those countries are China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.

The Tulane study abroad program in South Korea was canceled preemptively before the semester began due to the virus. Students that were studying abroad in China and Italy have been evacuated out of the countries.

Currently, Tulane is not postponing or adjusting any large-scale university events, including commencement, though guidance from the administration notes that might change if coronavirus spreads in Louisiana.

According to Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office, officials will send the test to the CDC — until then, the case remains “presumptive.” Following the CDC’s test, the Office of Public Health will investigate who has come into contact with the the patient to determine the risk of it spreading further.

Louisiana officials stressed their readiness for the moment and said the risk to the public is low.

“We prepared for this moment, and we are ready,” Cantrell said in a statement. “Our public safety team and our public health leaders are working in close collaboration with the Louisiana Department of Health and with the Governor’s office. At this time, we believe the risk to the public remains low — but we are being vigilant and deliberate at every stage.”

“While today is the first time that we can confirm that we have a presumptive positive coronavirus case, Louisiana has been preparing for this moment for many weeks,” Edwards tweeted.

Tulane has also been preparing for the spread of the virus — Robin Forman, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, is heading a Tulane task force to monitor the virus’s spread at Tulane.

“While at this point we do not know whether there will ultimately be any government ordered or health agency recommended lockdown, we are working to establish contingency plans that will allow us to continue the university’s academic and research mission during any such scenario,” President Mike Fitts wrote in an email to the student body on March 6.

Monday’s Tulane-wide email encourages members of the Tulane community to call the Student Health Center for a medical screening if they have traveled to or from a location where coronavirus advisories are in place or around people who may have been done the same.

This is a developing story.